Not too long ago, I wrote a blog post on creating a value proposition specific for millennials. It’s a topic that dominates many HR conversations today. Many a HR gurus, scholars, grad student, think tanks have written about millennials and their impact on the workforce, and so it’s not too hard to find soundbites such as:
- “Millennials will be the largest generation in the U.S. workforce as of 2015” The 2015 Millennial Majority Workforce, Upwork (formerly oDesk)
- “More than one-in-three American workers today are Millennials (adults ages 18 to 34 in 2015), and this year they surpassed Generation X to become the largest share of the American workforce” Millennials surpass Gen Xers as the largest generation in U.S. labor force, PewResearch
- “Millennials are the generation considered best at key skills businesses require to remain agile and innovative” The 2015 Millennial Workforce Study, MillennialBranding
- “By 2014, 36 percent of the U.S. workforce will be comprised of this generation and by 2020, nearly half (46 percent) of all U.S. workers will be Millennials” Maximizing Millennials in the Workplace, Jessica Brack and Kip Kelly, UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School
I was a little surprised that my post, seemingly timely in nature, received comments and feedback from a variety of friends and colleagues — young, old, tenured, recent grads — who all expressed a fresh, interesting perspective on the future of millennials in the workplace.
In a nutshell: Our pursuit of millennials almost mirrors the plot of one of my favorite book series and movies, The Maze Runners: a dystopian society completely dependent on a group of young adults to save their future. It made me think that we treat millennials like they’re our maze runners — the kids who are going to save the future of our workplace.
We’re talking about this to the point where: 1) the millennials themselves are asking us to leave them alone — like the Maze Runners, they didn’t ask to be the “saviors” of the workplace; and 2) we’re inadvertently overlooking the talents of existing workforce demographics, the Gen Xers and even Baby Boomers, and everyone else in between, who — while they might not comprise the majority of the future workforce — still have a lot to give and provide to an organization.
“Will millennials who are just entering the workforce need professional development around what it means to act professionally? Probably. Just like Gen Xers needed similar development, and Baby Boomers before them.”
Sure, millennials will soon comprise nearly 50% of the workforce, but there are others running the maze too. While we focus on millennials’ early career development, let’s not overlook the mid-career development and executive leadership needs of Gen Xers and Baby Boomers.
So, back to my post about establishing a value proposition for millennials. I stand corrected. Because when I look at the blog post with a different lens, what I outlined is a value proposition and career development plan that can be applied to any age group. I just attended a “Workforce Live!” session in New York City where I heard that we will on average work 81,000 hours in our lifetime. Sure, that’s kind of depressing to think about, but at the same time, that statistic makes it clear that we need to make the most out of our career experience — no matter if you’ve been working for 40 days or for 40 years.
Brian says it best: “The bottom line: let’s stop acting like grumpy neighbors with all this “generations in the workplace” nonsense. As learning professionals, let’s do our due diligence in identifying learning needs for each individual and let’s assist them through appropriate development opportunities, regardless of the year in which they were born.”
We’re all maze runners who, as a whole, we will be driving the future workplace. So, instead of hyperfocusing on one particular age group over another, let’s look at the career aspirations / needs of each individual employee — and recognize that the future of our workforce is comprised of multiple age groups, who are all need career development love.